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Grad School! But then what? (Part 2)

Photo by @aleksbud / Instagram @gradlifemcgill

Photo by @aleksbud / Instagram @gradlifemcgill

A couple weeks ago I expressed some of my anxiety about my future career plans, my decision to explore my options other than a post-doc and a Career Development Day I was organizing. The event was a rousing success! (I might be a bit bias.) Organizing the event was a learning experience in itself and I’ll talk more about my experiences working with BGSS in a future post but here are the 4 top things I learned from the event.

1. Know what is important to you.
This was an exercise from the Individual Career Planning workshop run by CaPS. Basically you make a long list of different values you might look for in a job (ie. work-life balance, high salary, security, flexibility, problem solving etc.) You take these and put them into 3 piles; needs, wants and neutrals. Then you take your “needs” and order them from most to least important. When you really sit down and think about it, you might be surprised by what aspects are the most important to you, I know I was. Once you have your list you can see patterns and maybe associate them with certain careers. Better yet, give it to a friend; they might see things in there that you can’t. This activity really helped put things into focus and is allowing me to look for careers that will fit with who I am.

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Applying to Grad School: An overview

When I think about how uncertain and nervous I was about applying and beginning grad school this time last year, I always give out a loud laugh, brimming with relief. As an international student, I had to think about how many universities I need to apply to (the application fees are pretty high), whether I was qualified enough for each of those (the level of study/syllabi are completely different), and how I was going to manage my finances (I still convert prices from dollars to rupees and moan about how costly food is in Canada). Taking a loan is a pretty big deal, especially when the loan amount is huge and you’re unsure whether you’ll get a job right after grad school. In my case, since I wanted to get into a biological sciences field with the intention of doing a PhD after, I had to think twice. Do I take a loan of almost 40,000 USD for two years, and do a PhD after? How could I repay it on a PhD salary? More importantly, will I even get into a university? (more…)

#DesautelsFamily

Bronfman Building, Desautels Faculty of Management and snow

Bronfman Building, Desautels Faculty of Management and snow || Photo by Akshay Kohli

It’s been a while now that I stood in front of the Bronfman building’s main entrance at Sherbrooke and admired the history of it all and the legacy that I am a part of. A year, to be precise, since that moment when I ‘looked up’ to realize my existence in front of a building which, in the last few decades, has made many dreams come true. I, like 76 other MBA students, started my MBA at Desautels Faculty of Management in August 2015 and remember when most of us saw the building for the first time, gazing at the red frame shining in the sun, smiling in hope. The construction in front of the gates doesn’t help but we have completely forgotten to stand still, take a breath and look up to the place we are at. The place which has been our home for the last one year.

                The MBA students at Desautels faculty of Management spend most of their time at the third floor. It is not uncommon for students to spend five or maybe six days a week at that floor attending classes, meeting for group projects, completing assignments, planning for club events, chilling, meeting with faculty, tweaking resumes, flirting, writing cover letters, reading cases, searching incessantly for job postings, writing emails in the name of networking and what not. Just as we fail to notice the significance of the Bronfman building in the midst of it all, we forget that these wonderfully passionate people who are at it day in and day out are life stories which are germinating at the moment in the ‘greenhouse of careers’ that Bronfman building is. Typing away amidst all the anxiousness, loneliness, happiness, irritation, joy, disappointments, deprivation, and other spectrum of feelings that an MBA student goes through what keeps them going is the passion that they came here with (and the fact that the debt is real).

                A mother of two toils away to learn to apply business strategy and at the same time hopes that the kids are taken good care of by the husband, a husband, living away from his wife with the hope to change careers and can’t travel home on all weekends due to the piling school work, students from the other side of the world are looking to only go back home to meet their dear ones once they have a job that they want, and some students have been experts in their fields, in their country, but change of location has deemed their skill not as valuable. The struggle is real, but at the end of the day (or semester) these, and many more students, still have a smile on their faces because all of us care. The faculty of management brands us as the #DesautelsFamily but it is not just a branding exercise, it is the root of our existence and success at Bronfman.

I was speaking to a first year MBA student and he said that despite all the challenges that students face at school and in the Canadian market, the reason that we are still going strong is because “They Care”, the faculty cares for each student. No matter what the circumstance, the students of our MBA program should learn one thing- to “Take Care” of their surroundings and the people in them. The students of the #DesautelsFamily, in my opinion, don’t necessarily want to take over the world, but to “make the world a better place” and it’s happening right here at the Bronfman building.

Finally, the construction in front of Bronfman building has stopped and I finally got a chance to stand still, this time in the snow, and admire the house of our big family. Visit us sometime.

———————

For philosophical musings, Twitter @akshayleo25

What is the biggest difference between grad and undergrad?

Instagram @gradlifemcgill // photo by @fanidee

Instagram @gradlifemcgill // photo by @fanidee

Being a graduate student can be tough. A lot of your time is spent working solo in your lab, library, office. You have a lot less classes than in your undergrad so meeting other students can be tricky. Here at GradLife McGill we really try to create a sense of community and hopefully inspire you to get out of your labs and meet all the amazing graduate students at McGill. I really love speaking to new people and learning about their experiences as a grad student. It’s so refreshing to hear other people’s opinions but also so comforting to know you’re not the only one that’s finds it hard to get up in the morning. I tried to capture this in this month’s video by asking fellow graduate students what they thought was the biggest difference between grad and undergrad. Some of the faces may be familiar to you, maybe not, but I am sure their stories will be! Hope you enjoy. Please give any suggestions for future vidoes in the comment section, would love to hear from you. See you next time!

https://youtu.be/6cYGFJvXAJc

Read it and Weep

 

H McPherson

H McPherson

The urban dictionary uses the expression “Read it and Weep” in the context of giving someone bad news, especially if that news is in written form. However, I am using the expression in a purely literary sense.  Although I am perhaps more than two years away from even beginning to write my PhD dissertation, I have been reading award winning alternative dissertations.  What I have read are things of beauty. Articulate, exquisitely crafted, rich with colorful imagery, depth and control of relevant theories. Some extend the boundaries of the genre moving between theory, fiction, autobiography, stream of consciousness fragments, poetry, epistolary forms, and bricolage. Some are hybrids that blend autobiography, ethnography, visual, and performative arts. Once upon a time, I did a MSc in plant breeding and genetics.  Quantitative all the way.  Hard science, pure science. Clean, precise. Predictable. Then my head went BAM and that is now all over. The end of my engagement with quantitative methodology. There is something about the depth and richness of context, of the ability to capture what people have to say in their own words, to describe experiences with emotion and depth. Qualitative methods, language – every word carefully chosen.  Every sentence slowly crafted.  A slow crescendo of language and theory building to a denouement, the outcome of a well-crafted story, where secrets are revealed, leaving no loose ends. There is no going back. I have found a new home.

 

Urban Dictionary, November 24: Folx. (n.d.). Retrieved Novmber 27, 2016, from http://www.urbandictionary.com/

Do you have what it takes?

As the end of fall semester gets closer, days become shorter both literally and figuratively. Many of you may know that graduate students have to deal not only with their lectures but also with teaching assistantships, papers, presentations and any other duty to be done. We are the hidden cogs of the academic machinery that keep the academia running, but this noble labor requires an exceptional kind of person.

What makes us suitable for graduate school? Is it only a matter of being smart? Try to think about this for a few minutes on your next trip to the laboratory. Maybe you are an exceptionally smart buddy, but what if you are too shy to speak in public? In this case, you will have to face your fears and confront a set of academics along with a room full of people, which will not hold back just because you are nervous. Maybe you are smart and confident, what about discipline and organization? Do you have the habit of reading by yourself these papers and write your reports? Can you keep track of every experiment and every result without turning your desk into a war zone? Sometimes your supervisor will try his/her best to make time to discuss with you, but most of the time you will have to show that you can be an independent researcher who brings reasonable good results. Ok, so you are smart, confident, disciplined AND organized. Then how do you feel emotionally? Can you deal with failure, lack of motivation and even depression? That without mention that many times you are thousands of miles away from your loved ones and all the things that were familiar to you. In summary, what it takes to be here? A lot. Really a lot. Because even when you lack any of the previously mentioned characteristics you are here doing the job. Because with every one of your weakness and demons you are here doing your best. So for all of my fellow graduate students, fear nothing. You are exceptional human beings and I really hope that this end of the semester you get that paper done, have an amazing thesis defense or that those results finally make sense. Only the best for all of you.

Grad School! But then what? (Part 1)

Photo by @christinekts, Instagram @gradlifemcgill

Photo by @christinekts, Instagram @gradlifemcgill

Do you ever think about what you’ll do next after grad school? Does that thought ever scare you? Over the last few months I’ve been thinking more and more about this. I have about a year and a half left and thinking about what comes next has left me with more than a few sleepless nights. It’s a big decision to come to grad school but there are also big decisions to make when you’re about to leave.

It doesn’t help when you’ve heard the stories about how hard it is becoming in academia, especially when you look at the statistics. In 2012, ASCB published a graphical representation of current biology PhD career paths that suggests less than 10% of current graduate students will get a tenure-track academic position. A NIH working group found that while PhDs awarded in biomedical sciences has doubled in the last 20 years faculty positions certainly haven’t and they found over 1/3 of biomedical PhDs are working in non-research related careers.

Now it’s not all doom and gloom, don’t get me wrong. But it is a reality we all need to be aware of and something we need to prepare for while we are doing our degrees. (more…)

Shots Shots Shots

By N. Zelt

By N. Zelt

Well, that time of year has rolled around again. That’s right, we’re getting into flu season. School’s coming into crunch time, working hard to get papers written and experiments finished up before the holidays. What could possibly be worse than getting sick at a time like this? So, don’t forget to get the influenza vaccine.

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Dear Edward Snowden…

Instagram @gradlifemcgill // photo by : @digitalpigeons

Instagram @gradlifemcgill // photo by : @digitalpigeons

“Standing in line to

See the show tonight

And there’s a light on

Heavy glow….”

(Lyrics from The Red Hot Chili Peppers – By the Way)

Verses, words that many of us know, words that came to my mind that late afternoon when nobody-knows-how many students, professors, people of the McGill community waited for hours before listening to Edward Snowden. I was among them and I strongly believe that GradLife should have a page about this event, about his words.

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Enfer et demande de subvention

Photo par: Fannie

Photo par: Fannie

Étudier aux cycles supérieurs c’est bien.

Être payé pour le faire c’est mieux.

C’est pourquoi j’écume les Internets pour trouver des subventions à la recherche. Mais écrire des demandes de bourses peut toutefois être long, pénible, vraiment stressant et frustrant.

Long, parce qu’il faut trouver lesdites bourses, d’abord. Ensuite, chacune d’elles demande des informations, lettres, projets différents. Il faut réécrire chaque fois son projet en fonction de l’angle souhaité par l’organisme subventionnaire. Parfois, il faut remplir une simple petite lettre, dans d’autres cas c’est plutôt un formulaire de 10 pages.

Pénible, certes, ça l’est. Non seulement postuler pour des bourses demande beaucoup de temps qui serait mieux investi dans la recherche (!), mais s’assurer de collecter tous les documents, en certains cas de la part de chercheurs d’universités à l’étranger, c’est épuisant.

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How to be creative in an academic environment?

This question has been haunting me for the past six months. I may have already told you this, but I am a graduate student in French literature at McGill. I am doing my dissertation in both research (30 pages) and creative writing (70 pages).

For the past six months, I have been struggling with – what I call – an « administrative paper ». A seven-page paper describing and explaining my dissertation to convince my thesis a committee that it is interesting enough for the university and that they should allow me to start the writing process.

Instagram @gradlifemcgill Photo by @na0mirlima

Instagram @gradlifemcgill // Photo by @na0mirlima

I had an interesting conversation with one of my fellow GradLife McGill team members. She was taking a class in which she had to be creative and write about her thoughts on a subject. Since she works in science, she is more used to experiments and results, not necessarily giving her opinion on her work. In my mind, I had the exact opposite dilemma. I was faced with an assignment asking me to prove – based on sources and research – the interest in my field, while I’m used to giving my opinion.

I discussed this with different people in various disciplines and encountered a contemporary artist from London. He told me about his experience at Oxford University, saying: « We were the only ones creating in an environment where everyone else was analyzing. »

Here it is: I need to analyze things as a first necessary step towards creating.

My conclusion is that: in order to be creative in an academic environment, you need to follow the steps. You can’t rush things and create without a well thought out and well proven process. Don’t forget, you are writing a dissertation that might inspire others after you and that needs to add something to your field of study. You are contributing to research! Isn’t that what grad school is all about? Contributing.

What about you? Are you more of a creative or a research type of student? Do you sometime doubt how your work can « fit » within the academia standards?

Self-care in Graduate Life

Photo by @GradLifeMcGill instagrammer @na0mirlima.

Photo by @GradLifeMcGill instagrammer @na0mirlima.

As I was scrolling through my LinkedIn feed last week, I came across an article titled “Leadership or Self-Care – That is the Question.” This title shocked me. I took a second to think about what the title was saying: You can have either leadership success or appropriate self-care, but not both. After reading the article, I understand that the author was trying to portray the fact that many successful business-people tend to put their careers before their personal needs – a phenomenon not limited to the corporate workplace. However, I do not agree with the sentiment that you have to choose either success in the workplace OR personal well-being. I believe they need to go hand-in-hand to optimize overall success.

As a graduate student, my workplace is the lab. There are leadership components in graduate school, juggling TA positions, meetings with supervisors and committee members, writing theses, and mentoring younger students. We, as grad students, work long hours when we have to, and go out of our way to make sure our work is comprehensive and presentable. These tasks require great co-ordination skills, time-management, and initiative. In order to execute these skills as a graduate student, it is important to take care of yourself first, to make sure you’re both mentally and physically ready to do so. Thankfully, the last line of the article was, “Rejuvenating yourself will strengthen your leadership.” I completely agree with that statement, and I’ve come up with a list of ways to rejuvenate yourself before December comes and the looming deadlines start approaching.

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Survival 101 (The first time away from home)

As a 20-something student who’s never really been away from home for long periods of time, it sure is tough to move to a whole other country to pursue higher studies. Especially if that other country is around twenty thousand kilometres away, and looking at the air ticket prices makes you want to close your eyes and use your imagination instead. I had decided that I wanted to pursue higher studies way back when I began my undergrad. I wanted to experience how it felt being away from home and having to manage everything by yourself. And so I decided to go to university… on a different continent. A completely different place. Alone (well, alone-ish). Yay! Fun. (more…)

Laura’s Adventures in Montreal: Les Grands Ballets

balletshoes

Image by skeeze, Pixabay

One of the best things about doing graduate studies at McGill is the fact that it’s in Montreal. Unfortunately, due to the long hours in the lab, I often don’t take advantage of all the great things this city has to offer. I’m sure many of you can relate. However, in my struggle to achieve a good work-life balance, I do try and get out on occasion. So I thought I would share some of my adventures with you. Perhaps I can inspire some of you to get out and explore this city as well. Plus I’ll let you in on some of the deals you might be able to take advantage of.

My most recent adventure involved a trip to the ballet. I love the performing arts, probably in part because it’s so far removed from my wheel-house. Last week I went to see Les Grands Ballets de Montreal perform Romeo & Juliette. It was an amazing performance. Now I don’t pretend to know much about the technical aspects of ballet but from where I was sitting it was a stunning display of agility, physicality and grace. (more…)

Dieu merci, je suis aux études pendant que mes enfants sont jeunes

Instagram / @gradlifemcgill by @fanidee

Instagram / @gradlifemcgill by @fanidee

J’ai parlé ICI des désavantages d’avoir des enfants tout en étant aux études graduées. Ce n’est pas facile tous les jours, mais les avantages sont tout de même nombreux. Oui, oui!

D’abord et avant tout, c’est fantastique d’avoir (en tout cas en histoire) un horaire flexible. Mes heures de TA sont au milieu de la journée, je ne suis donc jamais à la course le matin pour aller porter les enfants à la garderie. Surtout lorsque mon plus vieux entrait dans son «terrible two», ne pas être pressée était une véritable bénédiction lors des crises de bacon matinales. Le soir je vais chercher F-A et M-A à 17h, ce qui me permet d’avoir assez de temps pour préparer le souper et pour jouer avant le dodo.

Pouvoir travailler de la maison est aussi un avantage non négligeable. Surtout après des nuits mouvementées où le sommeil s’est fait rare. Sortir à McGill après un maigre trois heures de sommeil? Non merci, je préfère écrire en pyjama de mon salon et ne montrer mes cernes qu’à mon chat. Si la productivité n’est pas au rendez-vous, une petite sieste permet de me remettre d’aplomb.

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The Dream You Don’t Dream

The Samuel Bronfman building is the house of business studies at McGill University. Each year a batch of students begin their two years journey of dreaming and a batch leaves the building with the satisfaction of having achieved their dreams and the joy that the last two years bought to their lives. But there are some dreams that no one dreams and that dream that you don’t dream is reality that surpasses your expectations. Something that you never imagined or fleetingly hoped for but never expected.

In 2012, five students got together at the third floor of the Bronfman building and decided that they want to tackle the problem of world food scarcity. They did not know what they would achieve but they had the courage to take up this challenge while braving the rigors of an MBA course. The team saw a spectrum of ups and downs but one year later in September 2013, the same five students from McGill University won the Hult Prize with their unique solution of using insect-derived flour to win a bid to address food security, in the process winning USD $1Million as seed funding to further pursue their idea. It has been three years since they won and the Aspire Food Group is still going strong with their mission of providing a sustainable food source to millions of people around the world.

Former U.S. president Bill Clinton with McGill’s 2013 winning team (from left to right): Jesse Pearlstein, Shobhita Soor, Zev Thompson, Gabriel Mott and Mohammed Ashour. / Photo: AP Images for the Hult Prize

Former U.S. president Bill Clinton with McGill’s 2013 winning team (from left to right): Jesse Pearlstein, Shobhita Soor, Zev Thompson, Gabriel Mott and Mohammed Ashour. Photo: AP Images for the Hult Prize

The Hult Prize is the world’s largest student competition for social entrepreneurship and this year’s challenge is centered on “the refugee opportunity”, specifically reawakening human potential, and build sustainable, scalable social enterprises that restore the rights and dignity of 10 million refugees by 2022. Students have an opportunity once again to tackle an issue where social enterprises of any kind can help attain the target. The beauty of Hult Prize is that with such a broad topic, it allows students from all backgrounds to view the challenge with a different lens and uniquely use their skills in the quest to find solutions.

On Sunday, December 4th , McGill University is hosting Hult Prize @ McGill — the university-level competition for the prestigious Hult Prize. Winners from the university level event will go on to represent McGill at the regional competitions in March 2017. The winners of the regional event will then participate in a six-week long accelerator to refine their ideas before presenting at the finals at the annual Clinton Global Initiative in September 2017 and get a shot at securing USD $1Million as seed funding.

The Aspire group probably didn’t dream this before it happened, maybe you haven’t dreamed it as yet. But this is your opportunity to live the dream that you may have never dreamt and in the process impact the lives of billions of people.

Those interested in participating can find more information about the McGill competition and the Hult Prize. Follow Hult Prize on Facebook to get updates of events and workshops.

 

A Friend in Fear

It’s that time of year again, when the streets are lined with ghouls and monsters, department stores are filled with plastic skeletons and more candy than they have room for, and I couldn’t be happier that it’s finally Halloween! Even though I’m a sucker for all things pumpkin, I’m most excited about all the new horror that comes with each Halloween season.

pumpkin patch

I’ve always loved anything that’s designed to scare. Ghost stories, zombie hoards, slasher flicks, you name it; I was that kid in junior high that made my friends watch the Blair Witch Project for my birthday party! There’s just something so exciting about the sense of unease that comes with being scared and so, it seemed fitting that my first post with GradLife McGill should be about fear.

Of course I’m not alone in my love of horror, and perhaps it’s not surprising that my grad student tendencies lead to me wondering why so many of us are drawn to fear. A couple PubMed searches later and it turns out that I’m not alone in my curiosity either.

Researchers have looked at the allure of being scared from many angles and in many disciplines. Some psychologists have theorized that people are drawn to horror as a way to “practice” reacting to real-life situations (1). There’s even research on how horror movies help bond couples on dates (2)! After all, according to data scientists at OkCupid, liking horror movies is the number one predictor of long term relationship success (3). But as a meta-analysis in Media Psychology points out, the love of being scared might all come down to the way we interpret our reactions (4). In other words, some of us are drawn towards fright because we also experience excitement that we interpret as pleasurable; this also helps to explain why, although we all get scared, only some of us enjoy it.

I personally identify with the pairing of fear and excitement. I’d even add that fear can also be a powerful source of motivation; it’s just a matter of pointing that motivation in the right direction. Four years ago, the idea of moving across the country and starting a graduate degree and a new life away from everything I knew was absolutely petrifying, but it was also exciting. I used that feeling of terror in the pit of my stomach to push me towards my goals and, although it’s definitely not been easy, it was the right choice.

My grad school life, like many others, is full of situations that scare me. Whether it’s starting a new experiment with my hypothesis on the line, or taking on the mentorship of an eager, impressionable undergraduate, the excitement of what could happen is always accompanied by a vein of fear. So while I sit here surrounded by glowing jack-o-lanterns and with a classic horror movie playing in the background, I’m reminding myself to embrace my fears, and to use them to make the most of opportunities as they come along.

After all, grad school is terrifying. But maybe that’s why I’m here.

IMG_20161028_213938 (2)

 

Works cited:

1Christian Jarrett (2011). The lure of horror. The Psychologist. 24:812-815

2Zillmann et al. (1986). Effects of an opposite-gender companion’s affect to horror on distress, delight, and attraction. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 51(3): 586-594.

3 Rudder, Christian (2014). Dataclysm: who we are when we think no one’s looking. New York, New York: Crown Publishers.

4Hoffner and Levine (2005). Enjoyment of Mediated Fright and Violence: A Meta-Analysis. Media Psychology, 7: 207-237

Graduate studies: A decision between adventure and chaos – Part 2

Imagine yourself about to jump from a bungee platform. You will see the abyss below you and the urgent feeling of retreat. In that moment you have to options: chicken out and live with the shame in your comfortable way of living… or you jump and see the experience by yourself. In my very personal perspective I would not make the jump as I don’t see the point of throwing yourself off a cliff just for the “YOLO”.

20161031_131903

Photo by Luis Villegas

But I guess that I had a similar feeling when I was about to enter the manager’s office to explain to him that I was about to quit to go back to graduate school. Metallurgy and Materials Engineering to be precise (more details in the previous post Graduate studies: A decision between adventure and chaos – Part 1). He was a nice boss, but he was also a strong old-shaped man whose perception of academic life was not very positive. “Are you going there on the afternoons?” he asked, and I had to explain that actually, I was presenting my resignation. I could feel the disappointment when he reclined in his chair and threw a quick glance to me, but there was nothing I could do. I received several bad opinions from some friends and other close people about my decision by then, so I was starting to get used to that particular reaction. The notice was official, my replacement was selected and started to train him. I received good wishes from my colleagues and I remember that the very last day when I step outside the factory, I felt like I was ready to take over the world. Unfortunately, things started to get crazy during my first weeks in grad school. First of all, my paycheck reduced dramatically for obvious reasons. Second, for some strange phenomena, all days were Wednesday. That day of the week where you do not know if you should press harder as in Monday or to take it easier as in Friday, feeling in a procrastination limbo that lasted 2 years. Working on Sundays? Of course! There is no better day to put your thesis drafts together. Going out on Monday? Why not! After a while, a Tuesday is not really different from a Saturday.  I lost the perception of time in a very interesting way. The days were longer now. There was no work cellphone to wake me up at 3 a.m. However, now sending emails and writing abstracts at 4 a.m. was perfectly normal. At least I could justify my nocturnal eating habits.

All of this was really hard at the beginning, and I could feel tired, more stressed and a little bit paranoid sometimes. But I was excited like never before, my research took me to different places in my own country, I met amazing people and I discovered a whole new world of information. And then the best came when I realized that it did not have to end there. What if I could go further and get a bigger challenge? There was an old wish in my vault waiting since I was a teenager. And there was a maple leaf on it.

Late Entry: When is the right time to do a PhD?

 

Photo:  H. McPherson

Photo: H. McPherson

I have not counted the number of times that someone has asked: So why are you doing a PhD? The question does not stem from genuine interest in my proposed research, nor does it come from an interest in my possible future career aspirations in academia. Rather, the question arises because I am clearly old(er). Over 50 older.

In our department (DISE), the age of doctoral students is more or less 1/3 under 30, 1/3 between 30 and 45, and yes, 1/3 between the ages of 45 and 60. No one asks the under 30 crowd why they are doing a PhD. It is understood that they wish to challenge themselves, or they feel a driving force to explore and learn new things, to improve their abilities to understand and solve problems, and they all hope to find a career in academia. This is obvious, and to ask this demographic why they are doing a PhD would be superfluous. The trajectories of 30 – 45 group are similar, with the added experience of engaging in the job market for a number of years, and a sense of certainty that research and academia are truly where they want to be. Again, this is not questioned.

And that leaves the last third. Myself and the other late entrants. So here is why we are doing a PhD. We are all in the last 10 years of our career. We all have unanswered structural questions about how things are organized in our respective professions, and so back to school we went. I think the main characteristic we all share is curiosity and a sense that completing a PhD will be personally fulfilling. Our careers are rewarding and we are happy in our careers. We are all working full time or part time, and are pursuing a PhD full time. But there is that intangible something that meant, for all of us, that this journey had to be initiated. This was made possible because all graduate courses in the Faculty of Education are offered at night. Which implies that the nature of education, being an applied discipline, genuinely values/needs PhD students who possess a clear intellectual and academic thread to their portfolio that is combined with previous work experience in the field of education.

Each age group in our program has unique strengths that we bring to our studies. The under 30 group has no responsibilities, no money, and a clear and concise vision of where they are going. Late nights are just late nights. The 30-40 age group bring experience to the table, and a drive that comes from having done something else and knowing precisely why they are pursuing a PhD. Many of the students in this demographic have young children, and are juggling job, family, and school. Hats off to them – their juggling expertise has the respect of all. Finally, the late entrants have adult or almost adult children, which means free time, a fulfilling careers, and a thirst for answers. Just please don’t ask us, “So uh, WHY are you doing a PhD?

When is the right time to do a PhD? Well, when the time is right for you. Anytime is the right time. Enjoy the journey and embrace the roller coaster ride. Just do it!

The beginning of a story…

Instagram @gradlifemcgill Photo by @na0mirlima

Instagram @gradlifemcgill Photo by @na0mirlima

 

Definitions of stories are enough to say that they are the way our life runs, works and expresses itself. Every act, every action, every single gesture or word is a component of that story that we tell by living. Then, let’s write a different story, one that would not describe a graduate life as a report, but one that conveys the sensations that graduate students feel in their day-by-day journey. Let’s put a character in the middle of something, a character that shows the way we are, faces reality the way it is, as many of us do. Although generally known as fiction, sometimes narratives can be the only way to clearly describe what we feel, what things are and not what they should be. Enjoy.

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